On Thursday morning, President Donald Trump unleashed his latest attack on mail-in balloting.
“Because of the new and unprecedented massive amount of unsolicited ballots which will be sent to ‘voters’, or wherever, this year, the Nov 3rd Election result may NEVER BE ACCURATELY DETERMINED, which is what some want,” he tweeted. “Another election disaster yesterday. Stop Ballot Madness!”
Less than 48 hours before Trump sent that tweet, in a courtroom across the country from the nation’s capital, came the latest evidence that totally debunks Trump’s notion that mail-in/absentee balloting is rife with fraud.
As part of an ongoing lawsuit in Montana regarding whether completed mail-in ballots can be collected from voters and turned in to the elections office, Kenneth Mayer, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, was called to testify about a study he had conducted on mail ballots cast in Montana between 2006 and 2016.
Over that time period, Mayer testified, there had been 7,079,953 mail/absentee ballots cast in Montana. Of that total, he had found one instance of illegal voting, where a man filled out and submitted his former wife’s ballot, without her permission, for an election for a school board.
That means that 0.0000001% of all mail ballots cast in Montana over a decade were cast illegally. Which is pretty, pretty small [Larry David voice].
But wait, you say. This is Montana we are talking about. It’s not exactly the sort of state where that kind of fraud would exist! To which I respond: Isn’t it? Montana, after all, has played host to a series of extremely competitive Senate races in the period of time that Mayer studied the electorate. In 2006, Jon Tester beat Sen. Conrad Burns by just over 3,000 votes out of almost 400,000 cast. Six years later, Tester won by 18,000 votes out of more than 450,000 cast. In 2016, Steve Bullock won the governor’s race by 19,000-ish votes, with almost 500,000 total ballots.
The point is that Montana has seen its share of close – and expensive – races over the 10-year period that Mayer analyzed. And yet, despite that fact, he found a single instance of voter fraud in mail-in ballots – and that was for a school board contest!
Add Mayer’s study, then, to the increasingly large pile of data that makes clear that, despite Trump’s best efforts to argue that mail-in balloting is hamstrung by fraud, there is no actual evidence for that claim.
* According to one database of all types of election fraud, there have been 491 cases of reported absentee-ballot fraud since 2000, which is an absolutely paltry number when you consider the number of elections and number of ballots cast over that time.
* A CNN review of data from six primaries in the summer of 2020 found that the number of cases in which people requesting mail-in ballots didn’t receive them on time exceed the number of people casting more than one ballot.
* A study done by Loyola Law School professor Justin Levitt tracked US elections from 2000 to 2014 in search of voter fraud, or, as he put it, “specific, credible allegation that someone may have pretended to be someone else at the polls.” Levitt found 31 examples of fraud out of more than 1 billion instances.
* A five-year study on voter fraud commissioned by President George W. Bush found, as The New York Times wrote at the time, “virtually no evidence of any organized effort to skew federal elections.”
* In the 2016 presidential election, there were a total of four documented cases of voter fraud out of more than 135 million votes cast, according to The Washington Post’s Philip Bump.
So, yeah. Mayer’s Montana study – like every other major examination of alleged voter fraud – turned up virtually nothing.
Those facts, of course, won’t get in the way of Trump – and Attorney General William Barr – continuing to insist that an increase in mail-in ballots in 2020 will lead to untrustworthy election results. But the preponderance of objective evidence makes clear that no matter how many times they say it, it doesn’t make it true.